A Feast of Joy

A FEAST OF JOY

by Patricia Knight

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“The cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15). Joy is a perpetual, delicious smorgasbord of delight, an avalanche of dazzling power that encompasses the heart and soul. Joy is exhilarating, lavishing our lives with zeal. Joy captivates behavior, illuminating a smile or a deep sustained laugh. Body language conveys our emotions with a sparkle in our eyes, spontaneous hand-clapping, or a little jumping up-and-down.

The exchange of wedding vows amplifies hearts with love, flooding them with joy. In such instances, joy owns the gamut of our emotions, rendering us incapable of passively managing surges of jubilation. Because the occasion is so anticipated and celebrated, our hearts stagger under the load, making us feel as if our epicenter of joy will actually implode. The Psalmist expresses it well: “My heart leaps for joy” (Psalm 28:7).

God’s Word is replete with examples of people whose joy knew no bounds even under the most profoundly challenging circumstances. Miriam, sister of Moses, unabashedly rallied the Israeli women to sing, using tambourines and dance to exuberantly express joy and gratitude to the Lord following His miraculous delivery of the Israelites from generations of slavery in Egypt. The women converted their sorrow and mourning into enthusiastic singing to God for His spectacular victory over the pharaoh and the Egyptian army.

David, King of Israel, was ecstatic that the ark of the covenant, the representation of God’s throne on earth, was returned to  Israeli’s possession after many decades of absence following its seizure by the Philistines, who considered it no more than a lucky talisman. Rallying the people in a Jerusalem street parade, “David danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sounds of trumpets” (2 Samuel 6:14-15). It was a time of tremendous rejoicing of national impact. David’s dance was one of true worship, explicitly demonstrating extraordinary love for his Lord.

Job, an Old Testament character, was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Job’s dilemma still raises the quintessential question of why the righteous suffer. Job was steadfast regarding his innocence, though his friends accused him of liability for his suffering, determined that Job had caused his own demise by sinning. Job’s wife was so repulsed and discouraged with Job’s all-encompassing body sores, she advised Job to curse God and die. Having little hope for a cure and grieving the loss of his ten children and all of his possessions in one day, Job knew his joy could be deferred as he anticipated eternal life in heaven. Thus he admitted, “Then I would still have this consolation—my joy in unrelenting pain” (Job 6:10). In light of heaven, Job could readily rejoice, knowing he had remained true to God throughout his long ordeal on earth.

Paul and Silas were captured by the Roman authorities, then stripped and beaten with a whip made of several strips of leather into which were embedded bone and lead at the end. Once severely flogged with the whip, they were thrown into an inner cell in the dark, dank, malodorous prison with their feet  fastened in stocks. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). Suddenly a violent earthquake shook the prison, opening the cell doors and loosening prisoners’ chains. The jailer, responsible for all prisoners, was startled from sleep and assumed the prisoners had escaped. Paul and Silas intervened before the jailer committed suicide with his sword,  and presented the Gospel to the jailer and his family. The jailer was then “filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family” (Acts 16:34). What unusual events were set in motion by a God who was honored and worshipped in spite of life-threatening conditions!  When we trust in God, joy reigns supreme, regardless of adverse situations!Jesus-ColorfulCross--AMP

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the epitome of joy.  He who was sinless during his entire life on earth, acknowledged His ultimate goal was to glorify His Father by offering His life as a perfect sacrifice, to redeem sinners of this world. When the soldiers burst into Jesus’ reverie of quiet prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane to take Him by force, Jesus succumbed to the Roman authorities, willingly complying with their orders. “Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and set down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3). Jesus obediently chose to die; otherwise no one would have had the power to kill Him.

The peace Jesus exhibited during his brutal trial and agonizing crucifixion ordeal is beyond our finite understanding. Though Jesus was exhausted and hurting on all levels, He rejoiced spiritually because He was accomplishing the goal for which He had given up His glory in heaven for a season to live on earth—that of becoming the perfect sacrificial Lamb to atone for sin. Jesus’ joy was powerful and zealous; the bounds of Christ’s joy were immeasurable.

If the man, Jesus, could prompt any amount of joy while confronting a terrifying, heinous crucifixion, it was only because He spent quality time with His heavenly Father in prayer, who strengthened Jesus’ commitment to His life’s goal. Utter joy is only possible for us because through Jesus’ death and resurrection, He guarantees our inheritance, providing hope for a life of joy on earth and a glorious eternity in heaven.

When Jesus appeared to His followers after his resurrection, He revealed to them the crucifixion wounds in His hands and His side. The disciples were so ecstatic to actually see Jesus alive, their joy was contagious, extending throughout the centuries to our current generation: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). Indeed, we are commanded to rejoice. The Apostle Paul, himself frequently plagued with hostility and extreme suffering, taught: “‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’” (Philippians 4:4). Christ was the source and secret of Paul’s joy.

Phil4-4-PinkPurpleAbstractFlower-smaller--AMPOne of our life’s objectives is irrefutable: we are to be defined by worshipful joy in which God’s entire creation participates. “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy” (Psalm 96; 11-12).  Since all of nature responds to His authority, God accepts joyful worship from everything He creates. On that premise, let us assess the amount of joyous adoration our Redeemer receives from us. “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth” (Psalm 47:1-2).

Joy is not passive, but animated, manifesting praise and thanksgiving. Miriam and David unapologetically sang and danced before God Almighty. Like them, we eagerly worship our Savior, passionately reflecting His character with effervescent expressions of joy. It is God’s desire that we live triumphant lives, for which joy is one of the important components. Jesus said, “‘I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly’” (John 10-10, KJV). Let our words and actions be saturated with bountiful joy!

 

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Resurrection Hope

Originally published at Today in the Word.

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Hope in Jesus

Read 1 Thessalonians 1:2–10

 His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—
Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. 
1 Thessalonians 1:9–10

 

One biblical scholar describes hope this way: “From a biblical perspective, hope may be best imaged as a line suspended between past experience of God’s reliability and a future that is still open, a line stretched taut between the reliability and the freedom of Israel’s God.” The greatest demonstration of God’s reliability is Jesus: the Son of God who willingly became fully man, who suffered an unjust death by crucifixion, and who was vindicated by God in the resurrection. What a wonderful example for our own hope!

Our reading today is from the introduction of Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica. Throughout these verses Paul unpacks the multiplying nature of hope in Jesus. The Thessalonians had been persecuted since they had accepted Jesus (v. 6). But despite their suffering, they were enduring “inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 3). When the Thessalonians looked at Jesus, they saw that He had suffered and been resurrected, and with Him as their model they too could continue to hope.

The hope of the Thessalonians was inspired by the example of Jesus, and then their own lives and hope became encouraging examples for others (v. 7). This is the power of hope in Jesus: not only does it strengthen our own endurance in the spiritual life, it also provides a witness of God’s power for others to see.

Finally, notice the specific hope in Jesus that produced faithful obedience. The Thessalonians had embraced faith in the living God, and the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of His return and ultimate deliverance to live with Him kept them motivated to love and serve the Lord. Jesus endured suffering—and so did they. Jesus had been resurrected to eternal life—and so would they. What a basis for hope!

Apply the Word

The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation for our hope—not just the theology we believe but also the hope that inspires our daily lives and sustains us in difficult days. Without the resurrection of Jesus, we Christians should be pitied (see 1 Cor. 15:19). But because our hope is in Jesus’ victory over death, we know that our work for God is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).

 

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Great is Your Faithfulness

Great is Your Faithfulness

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Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. —Lamentations 3:21-23

How often do we do things that disappoint the people in our lives?

Maybe we’ve made a promise that later we found we can’t keep. Perhaps we raise our voice in anger again even though we don’t mean to. And how about the times when a friend or family member tries to sympathize with our pain? They mean well, but you’re certain they just don’t understand. I’m sure you’ve wanted to tell them, “You have no idea what it’s like to be in this kind of pain every day.”

At this point, we have two choices: to dwell on our misery or get on with the business of life.

We can moan and groan about our circumstances so everyone is aware of how much we are hurting, or we can demonstrate God’s presence in our lives by rejoicing in the knowledge that He is faithful to be with us through our tough times.

I have a very close friend (you know who you are!) who is a good example of one who lets God shine through her in spite of her constant pain. She once shared her feelings about pain with me this way:

“It is just pain. It could be worse. I could be suffering with pain and dying. It is only pain. I can still live and make the most of my life, to extend myself as far as I can go, to reach for the stars, to do the unimaginable. The pain will still be there. So, why not celebrate?”

This dear friend is such an encourager. Her positive attitude is a beacon of light in the darkness of pain. Quite simply, she makes me smile no matter how awful I’m feeling.

Beloved, the Lord is our only hope! He knows exactly what our pain is like and He will help us through it “every morning; great is [His] faithfulness.” He understands how constant pain can undermine a positive attitude and make us feel hopeless. But He’s always with us, ready to offer His love and comfort: “therefore I have hope.” Won’t you please pray with me?

Heavenly Father, sometimes it’s so hard to be cheerful and hopeful when I’m feeling so rotten. It’s easier for me to just give up and let the pain take over. But, Lord, I know that You love me too much to let me feel this way. Thank You for what You are teaching me through these trials and for being with me always. Help me to let Your joy flow through me to touch the lives of others who may also be suffering. You are great and greatly to be praised! Amen.

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A Child is Born [Repost]

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For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. —Isaiah 9:6

I’m sure most of us have been the recipients of birth announcements from friends and family. We get excited when we read the good news, but have any of those been as exciting or answered such a deep need as this one from Isaiah?

We announce the birth of our sweet, cuddly and cute newborns with clever sayings amid pastel colors and pictures of bunnies, kittens, teddy bears, and the like. But just look at how Jesus’ birth is described by the prophet Isaiah:

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Wonderful Counselor … Mighty God … Everlasting Father … Prince of Peace

Beloved, this is not a mere birth announcement. It is a heavenly proclamation!

I cannot think of any other gift that means more to us than God’s special gift to mankind: His Son, Jesus Christ. All over the world, people exchange presents in commemoration of this ultimate gift, which is the only means of rescue from our sins.

Before we realize the need for Jesus in our lives, we are in a deep darkness of doubt and anxiety. After we ask Jesus to come into our hearts as our Savior, we leap from that lonely, dark void into a glorious and joyful anticipation of eternal life with Him at our side.

Just as Jesus’ death on the cross changes our darkness into the radiant light of eternal joy, a close relationship with Him is the only thing that can help us find joy and thankfulness amidst our daily struggles and pain. Jesus understands what we’re going through and wants us to lean on Him for comfort, support and spiritual nourishment. His birth fulfilled Isaiah’s prophetic message of hope and in the same way, we can look forward to this realization:

our ultimate hope is a perfect heaven in which there will be no pain or suffering

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Beloved, I’m thinking that after going through this earthly time of pain and anguish, we will be dancing with joy and delight as we step into that glorious heavenly light! This is what we should be celebrating as Christmas approaches!

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My Hope: A New Message from Billy Graham

In the new short film, “Heaven,” Billy Graham talks about life and eternity. This is an excellent video by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Please share this important message with as many people as possible.

Beloved, the reason for my hope in spite of all the health issues and other problems in my life is because of my faith and tust in my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, who took the punishment for my sins. This is THE most important decision anyone will ever make in their lives!

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.
The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;

and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
—John 11:25-26

If you have ANY questions after viewing this video, please go here to read more about how you can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and live with Him forever in heaven.

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The God of Hope

 

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Now may the God of hope fill you
with all joy and peace in believing,

so that you will abound in hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

—Romans 15:13

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Happy First Day of Autumn!

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Brothers and sisters,
be patient until the Lord comes again.
A farmer patiently waits for his valuable crop
to grow from the earth and for it to receive
the autumn and spring rains.

You, too, must be patient.
Do not give up hope,
because the Lord is coming soon.
—James 5:7-8

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How Many Cows [REPOST]

Another great one from Pat Knight, reposted from March 2013.

 

TREASURE TUESDAY

Once again I’d like to share with you a special devotional written by my friend and mentor, Patricia Knight.  This is another of the devotionals in her book, REJOICE! and it is not a coincidence that I decided to share yet another post with you about God’s extreme love for us.

How Many Cows

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A story was told me about a love story in a primitive culture a very long time ago. Amerigo was one of the brightest, most ruggedly handsome young men in the village. He was enamored with a young maiden named Maria. She was plain, shy, and self-conscious. In spite of Maria’s apparent flaws, Amerigo loved her.

In their culture, fathers demanded payment for their daughters in the form of cows. Two or three cows would buy an above-average wife; four or five cows for an exceptionally beautiful wife. When Amerigo was prepared to bargain with Maria’s father for her hand in marriage, Amerigo strode proudly into his tent, grasped her father’s hand and unequivocally announced, “Father of Maria, I offer eight cows for your daughter.”

The villagers were incredulous when they heard the news, not expecting Maria to earn many cows. Amerigo had offered the highest price ever paid for a bride, even one of extraordinary beauty. Amerigo’s word was honorable and he promptly produced the eight cows as his bride’s dowry. The wedding ceremony was then conducted that evening.

Within months Maria evolved into a new person. She gained new confidence, her eyes sparkled and she developed grace and poise. She had become a beautiful woman.

Later Amerigo was asked the reason for his high payment for his wife. If he was such a shrewd trader, why would he offer eight cows for a woman he could easily have had for three? He wanted Maria to be happy, but more than that, Amerigo recognized that the way a woman thinks about herself can bring about changes. “Before I came into her life, Maria believed she was worth nothing. Now she knows she is worth more than any woman in the village is. I wanted to marry Maria. I loved her and no other woman.” He paused and smiled. “But, I wanted an eight-cow wife.”

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We were nothing by ourselves before Christ purchased us with His blood. God loved us, His creation, so much that “He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God purchased a pauper with a king. There was nothing we could do to make ourselves more attractive, more honest, or more loving. When the unblemished Lamb of God purchased us, we were transformed. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Notice that God did not require that we first become pure and demonstrate our abilities before He would begin to work in us. He accepted us as we were, presented us with His Son, the greatest gift of all time, and promised His very presence and His gift of eternal life. This was accomplished by divine grace, not by human merit.

We can walk a little straighter, talk more positively, and live more joyously because through Jesus “we have access to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). The God of the whole universe is approachable. He allows us to pray to Him and he hears and answers every one of our prayers. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).

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God is alive. His Word is alive. No other long-established religion in the world has the benefit of worshiping a living person, one who has experienced everything we do in our live. When Jesus walked the earth, He was exposed to every temptation known to man so that when we find ourselves in a bind, when we need delivery from a problem, Jesus knows what we are feeling. That is why He can answer instantly and appropriately whenever we call on Him.

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“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (Ephesians 1:7-8).

We had a price on our head and now it has been fully paid. We have been freed, redeemed, justified. Christ paid the price for our sins, creating salvation for all who believe.

I know so little about the supreme love that sent Jesus to the cross for my redemption. But, this one thing I know—I am free! Jesus saved me from a life of servitude to sin, shame, and sadness. All of my previous transgressions are sealed in God’s possession, forgiven and forgotten by a righteous God.

Maria was purchased with cows so that she and Amerigo could form a union. We have been purchased by the blood of Jesus so that we could be united with Him on earth where we do His work, knowing that one day we will live with Him eternally in heaven.

Maria changed drastically after being complimented by a high purchase price. We too are transformed people. The old has passed away. The new is constantly evolving. God compliments us and elevates us by purchasing us with an extremely high price, the highest gift anyone could give. Jesus gave His life to redeem us.

Maria knew the reason for her new confidence. If her countenance and performance were changed by trust placed in her by Amerigo, how much more we can change, bloom, and evolve into a child of God. Our heavenly Father loves us beyond measure! Even when we mess up He is right nearby to clean up and set us back on our feet. There is no limit to His love for us; He gave His son as proof of that indistinguishable love.

Eph2-8-9“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

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